- Jay and Silent Bob visit the Blair Witch basement.
When Jedi Mind Tricks began working on their fifth album, they looked at their list of former collaborators: rap veterans Canibus, Ras Kass and Kool G Rap; Killah Priest and GZA of the Wu-Tang Clan. Then they looked across the genre gap, to Sufjan Stevens.
"Our manager said, "Yo, there's a real dope Sufjan song you should sample. It would be dope if you did it,'" recalls Vinnie Paz, the emcee behind Jedi Mind Tricks.
Stevens, who has risen to indie rock fame since last year's album Illinoise, agreed to let the underground hip-hop duo borrow his song "Dumb I Sound." His female vocalist also pitched in on the collaboration.
The result is "Razorblade Salvation," with the mellowed-out sample converted into an aggressive and distinctly JMT sound. Shara Worden's soulful voice gives the chorus a haunting feel as Paz raps a heartfelt apology to his mother. The song is a response to the lyrical suicide note "Before the Great Collapse" off Legacy of Blood.
With the release of Servants in Heaven, Kings in Hell, Paz and Stoupe the Enemy of Mankind are more vital than ever. The album is only two weeks old, and JMT has been on the road since a release party in their hometown of Philadelphia. Paz says the shows give them not only a chance to meet and perform for their fans, but also to gather feedback on the album.
So far, the response from the crowds has been good not that surprising since, despite the indie collaboration, Paz says this album doesn't differ drastically from the first four. "It's us doing what we do," he says. "We just expanded our sound."
Paz and Stoupe started rapping together in high school, and JMT released their first record in 1996. It didn't take long for Paz's gritty rhymes and Stoupe's smooth production to become recognizable within the East Coast underground scene.
The sound is defined by its opposition to mainstream rap and hip-hop. Where commercial acts rely on bling and high-end production, JMT goes for hardcore appeal. 2000's Violent by Design has achieved near-classic status in the scene for its raw honesty and innovative beats. At the same time, the duo has caused controversy with thuggish lyrics and occasional tiffs with other East Coast rappers. Paz insists JMT is just about letting people know that their music is still being done with integrity.
"We're trying to be politically aware and spiritually aware," he says. "It's a natural fit when you're trying to make an honest record."
Known to insert references to his adopted religion of Islam and featuring raps about slave labor and the Iraq war on the new album Paz isn't exactly a natural fit in Colorado Springs. He remembers being nervous the last time his tour came to the city.
"It's a conservative place, and we're the antithesis of conservative," he says. "But it's beautiful and the fans show love, and that's what it's about at the end of the day."
Jedi Mind Tricks with R.A. the Rugged Man, Society of Invisibles and Outerspace
The Black Sheep, 2106 E. Platte Ave.
Friday, Sept. 29, 9 p.m.
Tickets: $12, all ages; visit ticketweb.com.